x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

It's cool to watch hockey in the great outdoors

Let’s face it, if you are in the upper bowl of a football stadium trying to watch a hockey game that is so far away it looks like it is being played on a postage stamp.

Just like the NHL's first outdoor game, between Montreal and Edmonton more than seven years ago, the 2011 version of the Heritage Classic was hosted in Alberta - and it was cold, cold, cold.

Unlike in 2003, the Canadiens lost this time around and the home team won, as the Calgary Flames recorded the first shutout in the NHL's outdoor era (albeit, an era that encompasses just six games.)

Miikka Kiprusoff, who added a couple of layers of clothes in the first intermission to combat a temperature that felt like minus-20°C with the wind chill, made 39 saves in front of more than 41,000 fans, all of whom surely were freezing.

Yet few fans, if any, left, choosing instead to stay warm by embracing pond hockey at its highest level, and they helped make the event a success despite another challenging weather system.

The other outdoor game, the Winter Classic - in January, between rivals Pittsburgh and Washington - was played in rainy conditions that ranged from a sprinkle to a downpour.

But to the fans, the weather was part of the show, part of the experience, part of the memory.

And let's face it, if you are in the upper bowl of a football stadium trying to watch a hockey game that is so far away it looks like it is being played on a postage stamp, you are more apt to remember, many years later, the rain or the cold or the driving wind much more than who scored or even who won.

sports@thenational.ae